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Grab it While You Can: Frescobaldi's Keyboard Works

The Amazing Frescobaldi Bargain

available at Amazon
G.Frescobaldi, Complete Published Keyboard Works,
R.Loreggian, F.Tasini, S.Vartolo
When I saw the complete keyboard works of Girolamo Frescobaldi—a 12-disc set from Tactus—available on Amazon for about a tenner, I thought it might be a mistake, soon to be corrected, never to be seen again, and if ordered probably not delivered. “If it is too good to be true…”

But somehow it is true, because the box was ordered a while ago, duly delivered, and is still available at the same price.

The next surprise was that this is not a cheap-as-can-be budget product at all: It’s not twelve clunky jewel cases held together by flimsy slipcase nor a bare-bones box without notes*. Au contraire, the set is contained in a beautiful slim and sturdy box, with individualized cardboard sleeves, and a 64-page booklet (half Italian, half English) that talks about the music and the instruments (organs depicted and dispositions listed).

A third surprise was afoot, and that’s just how enjoyable the music is. Early keyboard music (these works date from 1608 to 1645) takes a certain predisposition to want to hear 12 CDs of, and for all the virtues of Renaissance greats like Lassus, Victoria, Byrd, and Monteverdi, or Baroque masters like Froberger, Kapsberger, Carissimi, Gibbons and Schütz… Bach they ain’t. Neither is Frescobaldi (much admired and occasionally adapted by Bach), who straddles the stylistic border between Renaissance and Baroque, but boy: his music isn’t the least bit dry and—whether on the organ or harpsichord—consistently appealing! The father of the ‘modern’ Passacaglia has greatly improved my opinion on Toccatas as a genre with his imaginative and greatly varied contributions. The example provided below comes from his Capriccio Pastorale which makes a perhaps undeservedly great case for the bagpipers it imitates.

Arranged chronologically, the works included (about 13 hours worth) are played on nine different instruments by Roberto Loreggian, Francesco Tasini, and Sergio Vartolo and include various singers—astonishingly accurate trebles among them—when the pieces ask for it or where it makes for a fun inclusion. So, among several pieces, in the Bergamasca in which Frescobaldi varies the “Bergamasca melody” that is at the base of Bach’s quodlibet of “Kraut und Rüben / haben mich vertrieben” and “Ich bin so lang nicht bey dir g’west” (Goldberg Variations) and where the intertwined lines of the songs are sung before the Frescobaldi variations are played on the organ. Just one of many charming touches on this wonderful set.

P.S. Even with international shipping this remains a steal, thanks to Amazon's surprisingly reasonable S&H rates. And the price is so low, it won't get stuck in customs, even if you live in a protectionist-socialist 'paradise' like, say, Norway.

* Like the British Symphonic Collection on Membran, licensed from Classico, which is full of good music—Ruth Gipps, Freddy Delius, Alan Bush, Arthur Butterworth, and Alun Hoddinott among the lesser known ones—but so bare bones that one might as well download the music.


Anonymous said...

Yes, we live in a protectionist-socialist 'paradise'. We have jobs and even houses, repulsive as it may seem, and we accept that paying taxes is our punishment for living in a civilized society.

jfl said...

A cowardly fool's paradise, by the looks of it, "Anonymous". Faire words butter no parsnips, though. Oh, wait. I forgot. No butter!